Starting the New Year Well

Rachel Strong, Unsplash

As the new year rolls in, we would be wise to plan for the coming year. We accomplish few things of lasting value without having planned for them in advance. This is true for our spiritual journey. Now, at the start of the year, is the time to plan for how we will encounter God in his Word for the next twelve months.

Ordinarily, I write about the value of reading through the Bible in a year. I would still recommend the habit, especially if you have never done it (or haven’t done it in a while), but Andrew Spencer says everything I would say (and includes links to all my favorite plans) in his article “Reading Scripture Is a Walk in the Park.”

There are many other habits to consider as the new year begins, especially when it comes to the foundational disciplines of the Word and prayer. I’ve written about these before, if you’d like a refresher. Jeremy Linneman also has a wonderful old article about skipping resolutions and instead crafting a “rule of life,” which I would highly commend. (Two of the best rules I’ve heard, which you might consider adopting: Scripture before phone, and turn your phone off for one hour each day.)

There is another habit that I would urge you to consider: that of the daily examen. An examen is a mental pit stop, when you pause and reflect on the day so far. Have you done what you hoped to do? Have you lived as you intended to live—a life worthy of the gospel? This short time of self-examination pays tremendous spiritual dividends.

There is no one set way to do an examen, but as an example, these are the five steps I walk through every day at noon and as I leave work.

  1. Gratitude. Pausing from your activity, thank God for all the ordinary (and extraordinary) blessings you’ve seen today.
  2. Review. See how you’ve done so far. Specifically, have you been aware of God’s presence and guidance in your life? Or have you ignored him (or even quenched his Spirit)?
  3. Emotions. As you examine yourself, pay attention to your emotions. What are you feeling—and why? Use these emotional indicators to help you search your heart’s deep desires.
  4. Waltz. If you’ve been in Journey Group, you know what the Gospel Waltz is. (If you haven’t, why not make that one of your resolutions for 2024—to join a Journey Group when they start this fall!) In light of what you’ve seen during your self-examination, (1) Repent of any sin, (2) Believe in the gospel promise that will help you overcome that sin (reveling in God’s forgiveness), and (3) Obey as the Spirit prompts moving forward.
  5. Prayer. Finally, pray for grace to be available to God and aware of his presence/guidance as you continue in the day.

(If it helps, these five steps form the acronym GREW-Prayer. Not the most helpful, but better than nothing, I suppose!)

May your new year be filled with the overwhelming grace of God in your life. May you be much more like Christ at the start of the next year than you are today, especially as you devote yourselves to the means of grace we’ve been discussing. God bless!

One Reply to “Starting the New Year Well”

  1. Brandon, very useful advice for establishing a meaningful life! Thank you!
    Hope all is well with your family and your church community.

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